Monday, April 16, 2007

Hong Kong Customs And The Diminishing Marginal Effectivity of Enforcement Actions

Peter Ollier of Managing IP engaged in participatory journalism by following a team of Hong Kong customs for three days. Ollier's conclusion is that that the approach of Hong Kong's customs by 'frequent and repeated raids' has been rather succesful.

Ollier: "Counterfeits are gradually being driven from open display in the streets into showrooms that are getting progressively smaller."

Ollier writes: "Statistics suggest that the enforcement drive is working. In 2006 Hong Kong Customs made 716 arrests for trade mark and trade description offences, 140 more than 2004. But the value of goods they seized fell from HK$42.9 million ($5.5 million) to HK$36.4 million ($4.6 million). Finding more criminals selling fewer counterfeits is a trend that IP owners should be pleased to see." Read Ollier's article here (subscription needed).

It is good news that the sale of counterfeit products has been driven for the greatest part underground. However, this does not necessarily mean that the total amount of the sale in counterfeit products has decreased. The fact that more criminals were caught selling fewer counterfeits, might point at a the fragmentation of counterfeiting. More criminals operating dispersed around the city, means that the risk of getting caught for each criminal decreases. And by selling fewer counterfeit products each, the counterfeiters decrease the risk of high punishments if they are getting caught. This phenomenon we could call the diminishing marginial effectivity of enforcement actions.

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